Faculty Highlight – Dr. Susanna Von Essen has played a vital role in the growth of the College of Public Health (COPH). She was chair of the Department of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health committee responsible for establishing the blueprint for the department in 2007. She contributed to the development of courses and curriculum for the Master of Public Health concentration in Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH), serving as the department’s representative on the Graduate Program Committee, the precursor to the current COPH Curriculum Committee. She is currently the chair of the EOH concentration curriculum committee.
Dr. Von Essen considers teaching to be a very important part of her career as a faculty member. She currently teaches two courses, “Public Health, Environment, and Society,” and “Principles of Occupational and Environmental Health.” She also provides guest lectures on environmental, agricultural, and occupational health topics to other COPH courses. Over the years, Dr. Von Essen has served as an academic advisor to many students and been a member of numerous capstone and dissertation committees.
Dr. Susanna Von Essen grew up on a farm in northeast Nebraska, near the town of Pender. She attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a Regents Scholar. Her interest in public health developed during that time, when she took a human parasitology class. She went on to study parasitology for a year in Germany as a Fulbright scholar. She received her Doctor of Medicine from Washington University Medical School. She completed her Internal Medicine residency and her Pulmonary fellowship at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She received her Master of Public Health in Occupational Medicine from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Dr. Von Essen has helped to recruit a number of faculty who are now doing research in agricultural health. She continues to collaborate with colleagues in developing their research ideas. Dr. Von Essen is an established and respected researcher in her own right, having served as PI or co-investigator for over 20 research grants in her career. Funding agencies include the National Institutes of Health and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, among others. Her research focuses on agricultural lung disease and other aspects of occupational lung disease, collaborating within the University of Nebraska, with colleagues at other universities in the United States and in Europe, and with state and federal agencies. While she has reported her research findings at national and international meetings, she values the opportunity to share information gained from her research and that of others with the agricultural community and rural primary care providers for the prevention of lung disease. She has published nearly 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals, close to 20 chapters in scientific textbooks, and was associate editor for both a book and a journal.
Dr. Von Essen was the winner of the 2009 Robert D. Sparks, MD, Award in Public Health and Preventive Medicine. The COPH gives this award on behalf of Dr. Sparks to recognize outstanding innovation and impact on preventing disease and promoting health through public health education, research, and practice, with particular attention to the needs of Nebraska and its citizens.
Susanna Von Essen, MD, MPH, is a professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health, and a professor of Internal Medicine in the UNMC College of Medicine Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, Sleep, and Allergy.